Women’s Minister Vows to Reduce Violence, but Lacks the Data to Follow Through

FEBRUARY 06, 2015

Jakarta. Women’s Empowerment and Children Protection Minister Yohana Susana Yembise vowed on Friday to curb domestic violence and trafficking of women, particularly in eastern Indonesia — a promise that, if seriously pursued, will quickly find itself challenged by the problem of quantification: No reliable dataexists on the prevalence of violence against women in Indonesia.

“We are looking for strategies to reduce the levels of domestic violence,” Yohana told the Indonesian Women’s Congress (Kowani) in Jakarta. “We’re also keeping our eye on trafficking in Papua.”

Any such strategy will invariably find itself hampered by the total absence of reliable data on which to measure its success or failure.

Although the National Socioeconomic Survey (Susenas) inquires about women’s experiences of violence, its interviewers are required ask these sensitive questions in presence of women respondents’ husbands and other male family members — who are, most often, the perpetrators — thereby exposing the women to further danger and yielding wholly invalid data.

Last year, a national survey on violence against women by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) was canceled by its sponsor, the Women’s Empowerment Ministry, due to a budget shortfall caused by construction of its new office building.

The long-planned survey would have used the gold standard WHO multi-country methodology for violence against women (incidentally, first piloted and validated in Indonesia in the mid-2000s). Its cancellation came despite support by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and USAID’s offers of assistance.

“There’s a big gap between women who live in eastern Indonesia and those who live in western areas,” Yohana said.

How big that gap is — and whether Yohana’s strategies toward her stated priorities are working — cannot as yet be determined, however.